Singing and dancing in the Primary classroom


We are all familiar with the idea of singing to babies to settle them and as a way of introducing language patterns.  However, the use of song and dance across the Early Years and throughout Primary school is also a great way of demonstrating the social and cultural position of the arts in modern communities.

In addition, for older children, song and dance assists in cognitive development and concentration, with activities that ask children to remember lyrics, tunes and dance movements, sometimes performing them simultaneously. Combining music and movement can stimulate brain areas that involve verbal memory and spatial reasoning, and support literacy skills.

Song and dance in Primary school

The benefits of singing and movement in the classroom 

Initially in children’s early development, song and dance can develop communication skills using movement to pantomime actions that they may not yet be able to articulate.  Using songs that have a strong rhythm and rhymes, accompanied by actions, enables children to identify patterns of language and movement.

The songs may also assist with auditory discrimination. Auditory discrimination are skills linked to how children identify speech sounds and combine these sounds to form words.

Research has also linked singing and dancing with supporting children’s self-regulation.  The pairing of rhythm and movement synchronization activities with those that help develop self-regulation were shown to enhance the learning in young children. (Williams, 2018).

“Beyond self-regulation, evidence also suggests that rhythm and movement can support school readiness skills, including early numeracy (Bergman Nutley et al., 2014) and literacy skills (Flaugnacco et al., 2015). For example, music training focussed on improving children’s beat synchronisation skills by incorporating percussive instruments and rhythmic coordinated dancing, significantly improved children’s reading accuracy compared to a creative painting condition (Flaugnacco et al., 2015).” Williams, K, Bentley, L, Savage, S, Eager, R, Nielson, C (2023)

3 Ways to use singing and dancing in your classroom 

There are many ways to use singing and movement as a part of your teaching toolbox.  These are some that I have used with different age groups over the years.

Finger Play Songs 

In the early years children naturally move as they sing.  This is useful when creating Transition Songs as the children move from one activity to another or pack up at the end of a session.  These songs give children the structure of the song; a beginning and an end.  Similarly, when you introduce dance movements, the words of the song give the children ideas for the sequence and structure of the dance.

Often the songs and movements for younger children will involve finger play.  The Nest is a good example of this.

However, these movement activities can further develop children’s physical engagement by using locomotor movements or exploring the use of different levels.  In The Nest example, the song could be performed the first time with only the fingers and the second time using larger locomotor movements. The first part of the song about the nest could be performed at a low level.  The second part about leaving the nest could have the children moving through the space using their whole body.


Write your own Rap 

Older children love to explore the rhythms and rhymes of language and often use them in their own play.  This may be linked culturally to Rap music.

Creating their own Rap music and dance can encourage students to be creative with rhyme and rhythm. Try to unfold the tasks in small steps to avoid it seeming unachievable.

Singing and dancing in the classroom

Starting the first verse with first person, present tense, and a description of a problem, difficult circumstance or issue seems to be a common format for Rap songs.  Integrating the subject matter with something you are examining already in another learning area makes this less complex.

Find a recording of a beat, keep the length to about 16 bars.  Divide the 16 bars into groups of four, with rhyming word at the end of each bar.

Through this part of the process, you can talk about the imagery and use of alliteration in telling the story and expressing how you feel.  Try to structure it with a beginning, a middle and an end. I try to help them find a positive or aspirational end to their Rap as this is often how professional rappers express their ideas.

Encourage your students to rehearse rapping and moving simultaneously by starting slowly and gradually increasing the tempo.  It is hard for professionals to do this in the early stages!

A dance project that integrates other learning areas or connects students to cultural groups in your community can be part of the Rap writing activity. Previously I have had children write, choreograph and perform a ‘Good Food Rap’ about healthy food.  They loved this activity, and I certainly was surprised by the enthusiasm with which they embraced the creation and performance of their Rap.

Musical Theatre as a way of telling stories 

Musical theatre is a powerful way of telling stories.  Musicals depict the triumphs and challenges in life, marginalized characters, and creative ways to make your voice heard.  Musical theatre can often reflect changes in society.

The combination of singing, acting and dancing is a complex skill for a performer. It requires resilience and flexibility.  Many schools use the annual musical as a way of developing these skills across multiple age groups.

However, it is possible to focus on the story telling aspect of the musical in your classroom practice.  Many children will already be familiar with the musical theatre genre through films like Frozen, Annie, and The Wizard of Oz to name a few.

Song and Dance in Primary school

These can be a good starting point for children telling their own stories.  Introduce songs from musicals that may link to theme that you are exploring in class.

As an example, you could be looking at diversity and inclusion and link that to the musical Encanto.  The children choose a song from the film based on the lyrics that best reflects the ideas you are exploring. As a class or in small group they then choreograph and rehearse a performance of the song.

And finally…

The combination of song and dance is for any age group and can be beneficial for learning.  It can also reflect how singing and dancing is seen in modern culture or reflect community ideas and practices.



Kirby, A.L., Dahbi, M., Surrain, S. et al. (2023) Music Uses in Preschool Classrooms in the U.S.: A Multiple-Methods Study. Early Childhood Educ J 51, 515–529.

Williams, K. E. (2018). Moving to the beat: Using music, rhythm, and movement to enhance self-regulation in early childhood classrooms. International Journal of Early Childhood, 50(1), 85–100.

Williams, K, Bentley, L, Savage, S, Eager, R, Nielson, C (2023) Rhythm and movement delivered by teachers supports self-regulation skills of preschool-aged children in disadvantaged communities: A clustered RCT, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 65, 2023, Pages 115-128, ISSN 0885-2006,